Mountain View, CA - March 10, 2011 - El Camino Hospital has launched a service on its website designed to provide patients with up-to-date information about the current wait times at its emergency departments in Mountain View and Los Gatos.
The not-for-profit community hospital, which has cut its wait times in half since 2006, now sees the majority of patients in an average of 15 minutes or less, with patients suffering a life-threatening emergency and those arriving by ambulance being seen even more quickly. By comparison, the average wait time for California hospitals in 2010 was nearly 4-1/2 hours.
"We've come a long way in keeping wait times as short as possible," said Diana Russell, El Camino Hospital's chief of clinical operations/chief nursing officer. "But the reality is that they may vary at any given time of day or day of the week, and people can become very anxious when they have to wait longer than expected, or endure exceptionally long waits. We are being transparent, and monitoring our times consistently, in order to help people know what to expect."
The posted times on the hospital's website reflect the average wait times incurred by all patients except for those who arrive by ambulance (those patients typically are seen immediately.) The hospital measures the average difference between the time patients sign in (after an initial screening) and when they begin to receive treatment by a qualified medical professional. The times reported represent a four-hour rolling average and are updated every 10 minutes throughout a 24-hour day.
"We hope that knowing in advance the likely wait time may help non-critical emergency patients determine which ED to choose," said Russell. "But we need to stress that there's no guarantee that the wait time they actually experience will be the same as the website estimate. Those are approximate, and the actual delay can fluctuate quickly. An emergency department staffing shift change or sudden influxes of patients can increase the wait time significantly."
Additionally, this information should not be used for anyone suffering a life-threatening injury or illness. Those patients should immediately call 9-1-1. Dr. Dan Fox, medical director in El Camino Hospital's Mountain View ED, said the hospital has implemented numerous changes to keep its wait times as low as possible.
"We're able to see and treat patients quickly by implementing a triage process," said Dr. Fox. "A physician or physician assistant makes a quick evaluation of every patient almost at the door. And using new technology, we can even have heart patients monitored in transit, so we are ready the instant they reach the ED."
Dr. Fox pointed to the Lifenet System, which transmits diagnostic-quality electrocardiograms from the ambulance to the hospital before the patient arrives. (El Camino Hospital was one of the first hospitals to sign up for this service.) When a patient is determined to have suffered the most dangerous type of heart attack, the hospital's ED and cardiac catheter team go into action, eliminating delays in the ED for further assessment. The system even allows a doctor to view the ECG via smart phone before he or she arrives at the hospital to treat the patient.
Additionally, according to Dr. Fox, both the Los Gatos and Mountain View facilities of El Camino Hospital make a point of coordinating elective surgeries and other predictable hospital admissions to insure that beds are open should ED patients need to be admitted to the hospital for further treatment.
"Posting our wait times is just another way we can improve the quality of our patients' experience," said Russell.